Instant Reaction: Southern Miss
The Huskers are 2-0 and Southern Mississippi has now lost 14 straight games. Weight those two things however you like, but Nebraska got the “get-better” game most Husker fans were hoping for.
On to the post-game reactions and rankings:
QUARTERBACK — 8 (Change: None)
The standard is pretty high for Taylor Martinez and he did nothing to disappoint. The senior displayed some impressive maturity at times, choosing to wait for a couple of passes rather than just take off and run. Most tellingly, his day was done midway through the third quarter. Back-ups Ron Kellogg III and Tommy Armstrong also looked impressive in their first drives of the season.
RUNNING BACKS — 7.5 (Change: +0.5)
Ameer Abdullah, who seemed a little sluggish in game one despite rushing for 100 yards, eclipsed the century-mark yet again in this game and added two touchdowns. In short, he looked a little more like the old Ameer and Terrell Newby continued to look like a weapon, not just a contributor. That’s enough for a slight bump here even considering the strength of the opponent.
WIDE RECEIVERS — 7.5 (Change: +0.5)
Martinez told people to watch out for Quincy Enunwa this season and he’s right so far this season. Enunwa caught his third touchdown of the young season, matching his career total coming into the year. The depth also looked a bit better as three Huskers — Jordan Westerkamp, Cethan Carter and Sam Burtch — all had the first receptions of their career.
OFFENSIVE LINE — 6.5 (Change: None)
Not too much to critique here, but, given expectations coming in, you’d like to see the big guys up front exert their will in the run game right from the get-go. Still, it’s hard to argue with how Nebraska has run the ball late in games so far this season.
OFFENSE — 7.5 (Change: +0.5)
This looked more like the unit many expected coming in. Did it look better? That’s tough to show against a team that’s now lost 14 straight games, but it did look deeper.
DEFENSIVE LINE — 4.5 (Change: +1.0)
Perhaps I was too harsh on the d-line after last week. The Huskers did record their first sack of the season (Maliek Collins) and defensive end Randy Gregory looked like a potential game-changer with four quarterback hurries. Still have to see what this group does against an equally large and athletic opponent. We’ll get that chance next week.
LINEBACKERS — 4 (Change: +0.5)
Getting closer. Neither Wyoming nor Southern Miss has offered a great chance to assess true linebacker play, but the Eagles 62 yards rushing says something beyond simply Southern Miss simply isn’t a very good rushing team. Seemed to be slightly better communication on Saturday, which is a big part of what these linebackers are asked to do.
DEFENSIVE BACKS — 7 (Change: +1)
Now this is the group most Nebraska fans expected to see. The Huskers recorded four interceptions, the most since snatching five against Idaho two years ago this weekend, and returned a pair for touchdowns. Ciante Evans is as good as advertised, but Stanley Jean-Baptiste is better than anyone could’ve projected through two games. Much better.
DEFENSE — 4.5 (Change: +1)
Nobody’s jumping the game to say the Huskers defense is “fixed” after a win over Southern Miss, but coach Bo Pelini agreed with a reporter who called the communication “100-fold” better than the game against Wyoming. You can’t overstate how important that is for this young group.
SPECIAL TEAMS — 7 (Change: +0.5)
The kick return game looks noticeably better with Kenny Bell in the mix, but the real reason for a slight bump here is Sam Foltz at punter. The Huskers have yet to be behind the 8-ball in the field position thanks in large part to him.
Feel free to drop your rankings, comments, concerns, or thoughts below.